The Zorra Township in Ontario has entered into a conditional agreement with Maple Leaf Foods to purchase its campus in Thamesford.

The agreement involves a 121-acre parcel of land that includes two processing plants, office building and an industrial/residential draft plan of subdivision.

Maple Leaf Foods announced in November 2016 the Thamesford facility would cease production in early 2018 impacting 400 workers. The Township and Rural Oxford Economic Development Corporation (ROEDC) immediately began strategizing how to mitigate the impact on the municipality and the specter of large vacant industrial buildings in Thamesford’s core. 

The Township and ROEDC explored many options over the past 18 months and through its due diligence determined there was potential for the municipality to purchase the property and sell off distinct parcels to interested parties, according to a press release from the township. The municipality sought development proposals for eight separate parcels and in response has entered negotiations with three proponents to purchase seven of eight parcels. The deal with Maple Leaf Foods is contingent upon the municipality receiving signed offers of purchase and sale.

The Township has not disclosed details on the development proposals at this time. However, the municipality will immediately begin public consultation should the conditions be
met in the conditional sale with Maple Leaf Foods.

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The Request for Proposal for the development process noted the Township’s desired outcomes to be as follows:

  • A vibrant, mixed-use community that enhances the area while respecting the existing neighborhoods;
  • Enhanced physical and visual connections to the Thames River and increased public access to the water’s edge;
  • A community that is inclusive of a diverse range of incomes, household configurations, and lifestyles; and
  • A community that stands as a model of excellence in the fields of design, sustainable living, accessibility, and environmental conservation.

While not able to discuss specific details of the various development proposals, Mayor Marcus Ryan said the “council was very impressed with vision expressed by the proponents and the submissions addressed the desired outcomes listed in the RFP.”

Ryan also commented, “Many of the issues raised by the public at an open house in February were covered off in the proposals. When the plant closure was announced, the fear of dilapidated buildings and acres of vacant land sitting dormant was a concern of all in Thamesford. What we have before us checks off all the boxes in our Strategic Plan: we are vibrant, we are prosperous, we are engaged, and we are environmentally conscious.”

Ward 2 Councillor Katie Davies noted that “the mixed use of housing proposed is exactly what our community needs to provide alternatives for first time home buyers and those wishing to downsize but continue living in Thamesford.”

Chief Administrative Officer Don MacLeod said, “After almost 18 months of negotiation, I am very hopeful we will be able to close this deal within the next 60 days.” He also noted “the Township will carry out full consultation and public engagement in this process once we are in a position to release details.”